Derrick’s life has never been the same since his older sister Charlotte’s suicide attempt, and now her depression hangs over the family home, disrupting everything. Derrick overeats, is isolated from his friends, and obsesses over Charlotte’s former best friend. The only thing that keeps him going is news of a panther prowling around the area – an escaped beast that he’s sure he’s seen, and just as sure he can capture. The parallels between the two beasts haunting his life are handled well, though at times a little too on the nose.
This is a promising début with a lot of interesting ideas, never shying away from violence or the ugliness of mental illness, and its portrayal of how depression impacts both sufferer and family is skillfully done. Nevertheless, at times the action drags, and readers might long for more explanation of why Derrick feels so responsible for everything that’s happening within his family (if it is to do with being ‘the man of the house’ after his father has moved out, this is not touched on beyond a single reference). The issue of whether he too is depressed or whether he’s just responding to a difficult situation is also left up in the air. Panther ultimately left me a little colder than I expected, though intrigued by what the author might do next.